Tag Archives: ipoh echo issue 119

Fundraising Odissi Dance


Buntong Community Rehabilitation Centre organised a charity dance, Odissi Stirred by Ramli Ibrahim and Sutra Dance Theatre at the State Banquet Hall to raise funds for their building project. The group performed three dances.

Chairman of the Centre, S. Jayagopi said that the centre has been in operation since 1999 from a place provided by the Tamil Methodist Church, Buntong. It currently provides free rehabilitation service for more than 600 people with disabilities regardless of race or religion. The aim is to bring disabled people into the mainstream to live in dignity and confidence. A building of their own is required to provide better services and facilities. The centre is open from Monday to Friday from 8.00 a.m. to 5.00 p.m.

Those who wish to donate for a good cause can call Saras at 05-2415779.


Restocking Sg Galah


If efforts at restocking Sungai Galah, a tributary of Sungai Kinta, bears fruit, inshore fishermen in and around Kampung Gajah will reap the harvest. On Friday, April 15 officials from the Department of Fisheries Malaysia led by the Head of Marine Resource Management Division Haji Ahmad Saktian Langgang and the Director of Perak Fisheries Office Haji Sani Mohd Isa released a total of 103,000 Lampam Jawa (a species of carp) and 10,000 Temoleh (a native species) fry into Sungai Galah. The ceremony was attended by members of Persatuan Nelayan Ikan Air Tawar Kg Makmur Sungai Galah, a local inshore fishermen’s association. The fish fry were sourced from the department’s hatcheries in Enggor, Tapah and Perlok. “Barring any eventualities, the fish will be ready for harvesting in two years’ time,” said Ahmad Saktian to Ipoh Echo.


Ipoh Mali…Again


By James Gough

There is something about growing up in Ipoh that makes former residents of this town reminisce about their growing up years here so much so that they actually write books about their good old days, be it written or in cartoon format.

World renowned cartoonist Dato’ Lat is a classic example. His Town Boy book depicting his growing up years in Ipoh has etched an image of Ipoh Town which will enable future generations of Malaysians to know what the Ipoh of yesteryear was like.

Now another ex-Ipohite, Kumar Nagalingam, has jumped onto the bandwagon and has come out with his cartoon book “Ipoh Mali” of his growing-up years.

Kumar lived in Lim Garden and studied at Cator Avenue and Anderson schools. His father worked at the General Post Office when it was located at the back of the Town Hall while his grandmother lived in Buntong.

His drawings are during the 80s and feature his neighbourhood hawkers like the laddu, laksa and the bread man. He describes Buntong then as ‘the wild west of Ipoh’ and the Buntong Market as a joy where he would cycle with his dad for breakfast.

An interesting book that takes one back to the time during the 80s and the activities of the youth at that time.

Kumar, like so many Ipohites, now lives and works in KL and describes Lim Garden as “lacking young people except during the school holidays”.

The book came about by accident when he was doodling about his first trip to the barber after which he started compiling his experiences. He created the book solely for the purpose of keeping some of these memories alive.

Undoubtedly, Ipoh residents living in the area of Silibin in the 80s will easily relate to the drawings in this book.

The 117-page book is available at Mubarak bookstore in Ipoh, MPH and Popular bookstores nationwide and priced at RM15.

Treat For the Elders


Syuen Hotel, Ipoh found an ingenious way to honour the elders. It did so in style by treating them to a sumptuous 7-course Chinese dinner at its gigantic ballroom recently. Over 600 patrons, ranging in age from 50 to 70 filled the well-decorated hall. At RM500 a table, it was a sell-out. The menu consisted of both vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes prepared by the hotel’s leading chefs. While the oldies dined they were entertained to music and songs courtesy of the department of youth and culture and some generous organisations and individuals. The merriment lasted till almost midnight. The seniors had a great time.


Gender Equality


Datin Paduka Marina Mahathir spoke at Perak Academy’s dinner lecture recently. She spoke on “No Democracy without Gender Equality: The Case for Women’s Rights in Malaysia,” which was held in Meru Valley Golf and Country Club. Marina, a columnist in the English daily, The Star, is no stranger to the local women’s rights movement.

While Malaysian women possess equal rights as men in education, it is not an accurate indicator of the true status of women in Malaysia. Marina held that despite the large ratio of female to male graduates, 40 per cent of female graduates do not enter the workforce, while 60 per cent work till the peak age of 25. Discrimination in the form of sexual harassment and gender preference in employee selection is rampant.

She said that one of the underlying reasons is the small number of females in Parliament. As such, women’s issues are considered a minority issue or ‘subfield’. Therefore, female-friendly laws are difficult to be enacted. One example is the Domestic Violence Act 1994. It took six years to pass and another two years to implement. The rights of Muslim women, on the other hand, are being constantly eroded. In 2009, the National Fatwa Council decided that female circumcision is obligatory to keep female sexuality under wraps. “It’s absurd,” she exclaimed.

If the number of women in Parliament is equal to that of men, Marina pointed out, laws could then be enacted to ensure men do not harm women, gain rights to paternity leave and to play their rightful roles as fathers.

“Malaysia cannot be completely democratic if its women are denied their rights,” she reasoned.


The Decline of the Traditional Malay Kampong House


By Mariam Mokhtar

This photo of the “transformed” kampong house (traditional Malay dwelling) reminded me of the entrance to Room 101. Room 101 is a place in George Orwell’s novel, Nineteen Eighty-Four. Room 101 is a torture chamber in the Ministry of Love in which the Party attempts to subject a prisoner to his or her own worst nightmare, fear or phobia.

I don’t think anyone who has seen the before and after pictures of the kampong house (above) is prepared for the shock. The first photo shows a pretty little Malay kampong house in an idyllic, albeit litter-strewn setting.

Like most traditional Malay homes, the timber house raised on stilts, is at one with the environment. The long driveway, the fruit trees in the garden, the ornate woodwork and shutters help give the Malay house an identity of its own. In the olden days, the roof would have been made of attap, which was soon replaced, by corrugated iron or zinc sheets.

The person who took the photos is angered by what has happened to the house. She claims that it is one of her favourite kampong houses just outside of Terong, Perak, on the way to Lumut. She has taken photos of the house over the years and “was totally shattered to find it had been turned into a swiftlet house with speakers blasting like crazy”.

Several Issues are at Stake

First. The Malays are losing their heritage if they permit vandalism of their traditional homes. What is being done to address this?

Second. Swiftlet farms are profitable commercial enterprises. Why are these businesses allowed to flourish in residential areas?

Third. Penang has seen an explosion of swiftlet farms. Is Perak going to suffer the same fate? Are these businesses regulated by the authorities?

Fourth. Anyone who owns a home beside these swiftlet farms suffer intolerable noise (from the tape recordings of birds), odour and other health concerns from the bird droppings. Is the Department of the Environment monitoring noise, amongst other things?

Fifth. What has the government done to preserve traditional Malay homes or is it only interested in promoting bricks and mortar, in the name of progress and development? Successive governments have ignored the socio-economic, cultural and environmental patterns of house owners. They have also ignored the psychological effects of overcrowding in cramped ‘modern’ town residences.

Sixth.  Those living close to these swiftlet farms find that swiftlets encroach upon their homes.

The traditional Malay house was evolved by the Malays over generations and they adapted it to their needs, culture and environment. The house also reflects and expresses their way of life.

If kampong houses are now being converted to swiftlet hotels, then this is a serious threat against the continued existence of the traditional Malay house.

Many Malays have now abandoned their traditional dwellings and relocated to the cities in search of work. Have unscrupulous swiftlet farm operators moved into these abandoned dwellings without the permission of the original home owner?

In many cases, the inheritance laws of the Malays/Muslims mean that no one person inherits the house. Homes that are not lived in easily fall into disrepair. Homes with several owners, suffer as no one person feels obliged to maintain the home.

Perhaps, this is where the swiftlet farm operator takes advantage of the situation and pays a small fee for use of the premises. It is cheaper to modify a traditional home to house swiftlets, than to build a swiftlet hotel from scratch. The operator pays a small rental to the various home owners for the use of the home, but he gets to keep the massive profits enjoyed by selling the birds’ nests.

Elsewhere, swiftlet operators are upsetting many people. Residents in the centre of Georgetown in Penang, complain that commercial premises are being converted to swiftlet farms. In Kuala Lumpur, the residents in an up-market area of Damansara, are angry about the noise of the birds as well as the tape recordings of the birds, from nearby swiflets farms.

Here in Perak, many of our buildings of great heritage and architectural value have been destroyed.

Now that swiftlet farming seems to be a craze and a money-spinner, the traditional Malay house is now at risk and is undergoing a retrogressive use. This vulgarisation may cause the traditional Malay house to become extinct in the near future.

Banyan Spa Opens Its Doors


A new beauty spa, catering to the needs of discerning Ipohites, has opened its doors to the public recently. Conspicuously located opposite Heritage Hotel along Jalan Raja DiHilir (formerly Jalan Tambun) it is considered an ideal one-stop centre for the beauty conscious.

Bayan Beauty Sdn Bhd was formally introduced to customers after a brief ceremony recently. Present to officiate at the event was Dato’ Hamidah Osman, executive councillor for women’s affairs and tourism. She had for company, Miss Malaysia 2008/2009, Soo Wincci and popular Malay singer and actress, Abby Abadi.

Gary Soh of Bayan Spa Sdn Bhd welcomed the VIPs and guests by extolling on the virtues of spas, dismissing the notion that they were only for the rich and famous. “A massage is a good way to relax and to rejuvenate. It’s a necessity rather than a luxury,” he said.

Dato’ Hamidah, in her opening remarks, praised Bayan Spa Sdn Bhd for opening an outlet in Ipoh. She hoped more would invest in wellness and beauty salons and spas in the city, as there was a demand for them. “After a tiring trip, visitors would want to pamper themselves,” she said. “The state government is willing to promote these centres.”

Managing Director, Penny Lai said that Bayan Spa’s uniqueness was its ambiance. “The kampong-like atmosphere provides customers maximum relaxation while their beauty needs are being attended to.”

As part of the promotion, the spa is offering VVIP membership to the first 30 successful applicants. They stand to enjoy VVIP treatment at a discounted price. For details on this and other promotions on offer readers can call Banyan Spa Sdn Bhd at 05-2426866.


Hidden Danger Lurks in Scenic Beauty


By Jerry Francis

One of Ipoh’s tourism assets is its serene and scenic cave temples, especially the Chinese temples. Most of them were built in the characteristic style of temples one can see in some of the old Chinese Kung-Fu movies from China.

Their facades are colourful with glazed tiles roof and symbols of dragons on the rooftops, and on the ground and inside the caves large statues of Buddha or other deities, such as Kwan Yin (Goddess of Mercy) abound.

However, amidst their splendour and attraction, the estimated 30 cave temples in and around Ipoh can be a worrying factor. These temples are increasingly popular among local and foreign devotees and sightseers, and as such the safety aspect needs to be given more attention as there is a danger of rockfalls which can occur at any time.

Some of these temples, having been established about a century ago, have attained international recognition. Among them are Sam Poh Tong and Perak Tong. Started as small shrines, many have developed over the years without interruption from the authorities. Some were built precariously on cliff-faces, as though clinging on them and others underneath huge cliffs.

Their massive renovation plans have transformed them into magnificent and colourful structures, which are attracting both devotees and visitors by the bus-loads daily.

Over the years, there have been a number of rockfalls in the state, some of which were disastrous. Among the incidents was at Gunung Cheroh in 1973 which killed 42 squatters living at the foot of a limestone cliff behind a Hindu temple.

The most recent one occurred inside Perak Tong on January11, 2009, when a big chunk of rock fell in the main cavern of the temple killing a security guard and injuring two tourists; while 16 other tourists were rescued in a three-hour operation. As a result, the temple was closed for about six months.

According to a study carried out, the primary causes of rockfalls are attributed to the rainwater along the many joints and fissures present in the limestone and it is inevitable that the rock slabs will break from the cliff where such action has sufficiently reduced their stability.

Rockfalls could have also been hastened by a number of secondary causes, such as vibrations like low intensity earthquakes, quarry blastings and passing vehicles nearby and oscillation related to wind blowing through vegetation growing on cliff faces and loss in cohesion due to prolonged periods of wet weather. Rock slabs and blocks will therefore fall off occasionally although the time and period of successive rockfalls are unpredictable.

Therefore, the cave temples have often been described as “time-bombs” in view of the dangerous situation in which most of them were located and built, and the relevant authorities had not checked on the development of the temples to ensure they are safe despite the existing safety directives.

Though the state government may be aware and concerned about the situation, it has continued to find great difficulty to evict the occupants or demolish the structures. Any action taken against the temples can create some sensitive problems. So, it places the authorities in a dilemma.

Although such rockfalls are rare and unpredictable, the authorities must continuously monitor the situation in the cave temples and their surroundings to ensure necessary precautionary measures are observed for the safety of the visitors.

Perhaps the respective temple’s management committees need to carry out regular safety checks of the surroundings, such as tell-tale signs like rock-fall debris strewn about the cave floor or near the entrance or outside the caves. If rock debris is seen, then the cave should be closed and not reopened till the stability of the rocks have been ascertained by the Geological Sciences Department.

However, these should be done without scaring away worshippers and visitors from frequenting the cave temples.

Safety guidelines have been in existence for years, but have not been strictly enforced. Among them are conditions for construction and the safe distance buildings need to be from the foot of limestone hills.

Do we have to wait for another rockfall to take safety measures at the cave temples seriously? Safety cannot be compromised, but should be a priority at all times. Therefore, what is needed is less talk and more action from all relevant agencies and departments, and as well as those responsible for safety.

The Continuing Saga of the Unlucky 13


By Fathol Zaman Bukhari

The prosecution’s argument did not hold. The defence shot it down at the outset. The inconsistencies and inaccuracies were simply too glaring…

Thirteen PAS supporters who were tried for unlawful assembly received their court ruling on Friday, April 22, with mixed feelings.

The 13, including a woman, were collectively charged under Section 145 of the Penal Code for participating in an illegal assembly and an alternative charge of disobeying police orders to disperse under Section 27(4) of the Police Act 1967.

The judgment by Sessions Court Judge Puan Norsalha Dato’ Hamzah was read to the accused by Judge Amran Jantan, in her absence. They were ordered to enter their defence for being participants of an unlawful assembly under Section 145 of the Penal Code.  However, all 13 were acquitted of the more serious charge under Section 27 (4) of the Police Act 1967, as the prosecution failed to prove a prima facie case against them.

The case, which had dragged for almost two years, witnessed some very emotional moments involving the protagonists, their defence team and the Police. Moments which epitomised the simmering conflict between the rakyat and the authorities.

It all started on Friday, February 6, 2009 during the swearing-in of Dato’ Seri Zambry Abdul Kadir as the new Menteri Besar replacing Dato’ Seri Ir Nizar Jamaluddin. The ceremony was held at Istana Iskandariah in Kuala Kangsar. Emotions were riding high following the ousting of Pakatan Rakyat from the seat of the government.

Being a Friday, the Ubadiah Mosque, next to the istana, was filled with the faithful who had gathered to perform their obligatory Friday prayers. The convergence of these two events was coincidental. The resulting ruckus prompted the Police to “overreact”. Thirteen people were arrested and duly charged.

It was definitely not lawyer Augustine Anthony’s day. On the morning of that day he was informed that the oath-taking ceremony for Ipoh City Council councillors, which he was to be one, had been called off. He was running a high fever and had just completed a battery of tests at a government clinic to ascertain his illness.

Later in the afternoon a call came through his cell phone informing him that scores of people were arrested in Kuala Kangsar. The caller sought his assistance to negotiate their release from the Kuala Kangsar police station. As he was in no position to make the journey on his own, Augustine was driven to Kuala Kangsar, post haste.

“There was complete chaos. Police roadblocks were everywhere. FRU trucks were going up and down and there I was, parked right in front of the police station,” he riposted.

Augustine feared that those arrested would be beaten up. However, all 13 were released on bail without any harm. That was the beginning of their two-year ordeal.

The case was mentioned at the Kuala Kangsar Sessions Court in March 2009 and the first hearing was in April. It went on till late 2010 when both prosecution and defence were finally told to make their submissions. “I’d prefer an oral submission but this was not possible as the presiding judge, Puan Norsalha, was transferred to Sungai Petani,” Augustine recalled.

Thirty nine prosecution witnesses, mostly police officers, gave evidence. An assortment of items such as rocks, stones, broken glasses, sticks and broken helmets, complemented by hundreds of still photographs and five video clips, were produced by the prosecution to prove that the accused not only assembled unlawfully but rioted as well.

The prosecution’s arguments did not hold. The defence shot them down at the outset. The inconsistencies and inaccuracies were simply too glaring. Augustine had a field day exposing them during cross-examinations. This was why the charge under Section 27 (4) was thrown out.

The defence team consisting of Hj Aminuddin Zulkifli, Yusnita Yusoff, Mohd Zamberi and Bah Tony offered their services pro bono pursuant to Section 42 of the Legal Profession Act 1976. “Under such circumstances money is no longer a criterion,” Augustine remarked.

Their commitment, however, was rewarded by their clients’ kindness, which was totally unexpected.

“They prayed for our well-being. One of the wives even prepared sambal ikan bilis when we mentioned it casually during lunchtime.” Seeing their lead counsel dozing off in between breaks during one appearance, they bought him a box of ginseng-laced coffee mixture to keep him awake. “I was humbled.”

In spite of it being seen as a Malay problem, the reaction of other races was equally heart-rending. “I had dinner in a Chinese restaurant once and was pleasantly surprised when told that my bill was settled by a stranger who had read about me in a Chinese daily,” Augustine recapped.

The end is not yet over for the thirteen. Their case will be heard at the same Kuala Kangsar court on Monday, May 30. All had chosen to fight. “We’ll be there for them,” said the Ipoh-based lawyer.

The continuing saga of the unlucky thirteen will keep Augustine and his team busy for the rest of the year. Circumstances have brought people of diverse backgrounds together for a common aim – the quest for justice in a civil society.